Charges 48 Alleged "Mafia Insane Vice Lords"
Alleged "king" Troy
MAY 20--CHICAGO – The Drug Enforcement Administration and Chicago police began executing both state and federal arrest and search warrants early today, seeking more than 100 members and associates of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, including many of the highest-ranking leaders of the street gang based on the city’s west side and their narcotics suppliers. Forty-eight of the defendants, including the gang’s alleged leader, Troy Martin, were arrested or are still being sought on federal charges of participating in a retail narcotics distribution conspiracy that featured luring loyal customers with free samples at dozens of street corner locations. In addition, at least 55 defendants were arrested or wanted on state warrants for various drug offenses. This investigation, code-named Operation Day Trader, is part of a sustained, coordinated effort by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to dismantle the leadership of Chicago’s highly-organized, and often-violent, drug-trafficking street gangs.
A federal complaint filed yesterday and unsealed today alleges that the defendants collected and paid “street taxes” and used violence -- combined with various marketing techniques -- to establish and operate efficient retail powder and crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana distribution spots, essentially ‘open air drug markets’ on street corners or in buildings. For example, the workers frequently lined-up customers, with one worker taking orders and collecting money, while another dispensed narcotics, and occasionally passed-out free drugs to entice regular customers. The defendants controlled approximately 47 drug distribution locations at various times - each usually selling between $3,000 and $5,000 of drugs per day.
Many of the distribution spots are in the 11th, 15th and 25th police districts, two of which – the 11th and 15th – were the pilot districts for Project Safe Neighborhoods, a cooperative law enforcement initiative that authorities believe has contributed recently to a reduction in gun violence in those communities. By late this morning, at least 30 of the 48 federal defendants, including Martin, and at least 23 of the state defendants were in custody. Officers and agents also seized a hand grenade, seven guns, several bullet-proof vests, several cars and approximately $28,500 in cash.
The charges result from an investigation that began in September 2002 and are based, in part, upon information provided by cooperating individuals, including former high-ranking gang members; wiretaps on seven telephones used by various defendants and consensually-recorded conversations; undercover surveillance and drug transactions, and a steady progression of arrests, searches and seizures of evidence.
“When a street gang lures customers by giving free drug samples, it takes a tremendous effort by law enforcement to overcome the damage that causes to our community, and today we’ve shown that we’re willing and able to do what is necessary to reclaim our neighborhoods,” Mr. Sanders said. “DEA will continue to dismantle organized retail street sales of narcotics with the same vigor we pursue international smuggling cartels,” he added
DEA Special Agent in Charge Richard W. Sanders, announced the charges together with Special United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; Philip J. Cline, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department; Richard A. Devine, Cook County State’s Attorney; Steven Martin, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, James W. Martin, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; Roger E. Walker, Jr., Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections; and Thomas Donahue, Executive Director of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The U.S. Marshal’s Service also assisted in today’s operation. The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of HIDTA and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
. “Today we are taking back dozens of street corners and whole blocks on the west side from the ruthless control of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, whose alleged open air drug markets would be the envy of any mass retailer,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “Cases like this and the one last week simply do not happen without the teamwork and sharing that exists among our partners – especially the Chicago Police, the Cook County State’s Attorney, the DEA and other federal agencies.”
Supt. Cline said: “Gang bangers who use violence to protect their open air drug markets terrorize communities, hold neighborhoods hostage and place hard-working families directly in harm’s way. Operation Day Trader will be effective because we know that disrupting narcotics activity and making life difficult for gang bangers is the key to reducing violence in Chicago.”
Mr. Devine said: “It is our hope that the message gets out that we are watching and taping and will come down on dope dealers with all the resources the city, county and federal governments can muster.”
All 48 federal defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute powder and crack cocaine, heroin and marijuana from August 2002 to the present. Those in custody were scheduled to have their initial court appearance at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ian Levin in the Ceremonial Courtroom in U.S. District Court. A list of the federal defendants follows, and information about the state defendants is attached.
According to a 182-page DEA affidavit attached to the complaint, the Vice Lords Nation is an association of street gangs that control drug trafficking throughout parts of Chicago and its suburbs, and has expanded to other parts of Illinois and to approximately 27 other states. The Vice Lords Nation was originally called the Conservative Vice Lords, and was formed around 1958. During the 1960s, the Conservative Vice Lords grew in size, and starting in 1971, and continuing throughout the 1970s, other Vive Lords factions began to develop and became separate gangs. During the 1990s, the Vice Lords Nation grew to more than 30,000 members.
Among the separate gangs that comprise the Vice Lords Nation are the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, the Conservative Vice Lords, the Traveling Vice Lords, the Cicero Insane Vice Lords, the Imperial Insane Vice Lords, and the Unknown Vice Lords. The Mafia Insanes, Conservatives, and Travelers are considered the most active, and many Cicero Insanes recently “flipped” Mafia, meaning, they became part of the Mafia Insanes. The Four Corner Hustlers is another separate gang operating in the Chicago area that is affiliated with the various Vice Lords factions.
The Mafia Insanes allegedly originated in the Illinois prison system and was organized by its founder, defendant Troy Martin, 49, of Bolingbrook and Chicago, also known as “King Troy” or “KT,” “Pops,” and “the Old Man.” Martin allegedly wields control over who is authorized to operate drug spots and resolves disputes between Mafia Insane drug spot operators and leaders. According to IDOC records of inmates’ gang affiliation, approximately 1,700 identified members of the Mafia Insanes have been incarcerated at some time in the Illinois prison system. Chicago police estimate that there are thousands of additional members in the Chicago area.
The Mafia Insanes allegedly use violence to establish and maintain drug trafficking territory. For example, high-ranking leader Eddie Bell, 43, of Maywood and Chicago, aka “Phillip Bell,” threatened to “start firing” and “to go get me one the biggest guns I got” to prevent unauthorized sellers who were dealing drugs at one of his drug spots, according to the federal complaint affidavit. Similarly, Martin also allegedly threatened a drug spot operator that if his top overseer, Donnell Simmons, caught that person’s worker selling drugs at Simmon’s spot, Simmons was “gonna bust their head.” Other security measures used by the Mafia Insanes included arming members with firearms in the area where drug sales were occurring to safeguard against the drugs or money being robbed.
In another alleged example of threatening violence as part of the conspiracy, in an intercepted conversation on Dec. 31, 2002, between Eddie Bell and his brother, Maurice Bell, 32, of River Forest and Chicago, who is also a defendant, Eddie Bell said that he would beat with baseball bats or shoot in the leg an individual who was selling drugs without authorization at the corner of North Avenue and Lockwood, one of several spots controlled by Eddie Bell.
The affidavit alleges that Martin required dealers who operated Mafia Insane drug spots to pay him a “street tax,” that is, a weekly fee for permission to sell drugs at the spot. Martin typically began collecting street tax from various operators on Fridays of each week, usually in the range of a few hundred dollars each week. For example, Eddie Bell allegedly paid Martin $500 a month to operate the spot at North and Lockwood.
According to the complaint, the drug spot sales consisted primarily of “dime bags,” that is, small plastic bags or tinfoil wrappers that contained approximately 0.1 grams of drugs each and sold for $10 per unit. The dime bags were packaged from larger quantities of drugs obtained by the drug spot owners, according to the complaint. During the investigation, authorities made undercover purchases or seized a total of more than 1.5 kilograms of crack cocaine, 150 grams of white heroin, more than 2.5 kilograms of powder cocaine, and more than $73,000.
Within the Mafia Insanes hierarchy, under Martin, the next tier of rank is called the “Five-Star Universal Elite.” The “Five-Star” designation indicates that the leader is only one tier below the King, and the “Universal” designation means that the leader should, according to Vice Lords custom, be given respect by all other factions of the Vice Lords. Below the Five-Star Universal Elite tier the “Three-Star Universal Elite.”
Defendants identified as holding the rank of Five-Star Universal Elite and some of the allegations against them are:
Another allegedly high-ranking gang leader, Lee Williams, 30, of Chicago, aka “Big Lee,” operated a drug spot, paid street tax to Martin, assisted him in the collection of street tax, and served as an “enforcer,” that is, an individual who was called upon by the gang to use violence to advance the gang’s objectives, according to the charges. As an example, a confidential source, CS-6, told investigators that when Martin was released from prison in approximately 1998, Martin sent a crew of enforcers, led by Williams, to North Avenue to re-establish control over the drug spots along that street by using baseball bats.
Among other violence discussed in the affidavit is the Aug. 9, 2003, murder of high-ranking Mafia Insane leader Alvin Pruitt, a drug spot operator who was allegedly supplied heroin by Hudgins. The affidavit excerpts telephone conversations involving Martin and Alvin Pruitt’s brother, defendant Marcus Pruitt, describing a $5,000 debt owed by Alvin Pruitt to Hudgins and a dispute between them over a drug spot. In these conversations, as in many others detailed in the affidavit, Martin tells individuals over the phone to stop talking about the Mafia Insanes’ business.
If convicted, all of the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole and a maximum fine of $4 million. Note, however, that the Court, will determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed under the United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented in Federal Court by Assistant United States Attorneys Edmond Chang, Pravin Rao and Jake Ryan, and Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Cathy Hufford, who will be designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.